When I was 14 my mam asked what I wanted to do with my life, I replied by saying I thought I would set myself small scale, enjoyable and achievable goals. She looked skeptical at first and only grew more so after I told her my first set of life goals; To meet Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and have them both sign my copy of Good Omens. Until this point in my life I had horribly bad luck with meeting my heroes. Most of them were dead. J.R.R. Tolkien, Roald Dahl, Pete McCarthy, Richard Feynman. But this time I’d be safe, I knew that both of them were still alive. Sadly less than a month after this conversation with mam Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. I was distraught, and later realised this was likely to be the end of my chance to ever meet him.
Anyway, my Cake Project idea had very humble beginnings. At Hallowe’en 2008 a friend of mine, Izzy, invited me to come stay at hers and meet Neil Gaiman, who was doing a book signing for The Graveyard Book in Eason’s in Dublin. That night remains one of the best of my life, the two minutes when I met Neil Gaiman in person were amazing, they felt like hours. He had this way of looking at you and talking to you like you were the most important person in his world and nothing else mattered as much. I’d made cookies to bring to my friends and in a fit of spontaneity I offered the box to him and he took a cookie, offering me one of his chocolate buttons in return.
The rule was that you could get three books signed so long as one of them was The Graveyard Book, Neil read the first chapter at that event in a beautifully scary voice, then he did a questions and answers. While we were queuing to get our books we were given postit notes to write the names we wanted them signed to, all part of trying to have a good event without giving people any time with the author they had come to see, but when we finally got to him it was brilliant, one of the Eason’s people was hovering at his shoulder, handing him the books, opening packets of chocolate buttons all to move the line on quicker, and yet Neil was doing it all at his own pace, chatting with everyone and generally being lovely. As me and my friends were leaving with our freshly signed books in hand we met two girls who’d been in the queue ahead of us, one of whom was gushing to us about how it was the best night of her life while her friend burst out yelling “He let me touch his hair!”.
I left with signed copies of Stardust, The Graveyard Book and Good Omens, and an idea. We all got on the bus home massively happy.
Coming next, The Cake Project Part 2: Terry Pratchett